Artificial Intelligence: The Next Step in the Evolution of Dental Imaging

Dental imaging is evolving, helping dentists to improve patient care. Learn how the power of artificial intelligence can help your office improve patient care.

The History of Dental X-Ray Technology

The first dental X-ray was taken on February 6, 1896, just 14 days after Professor Wilhelm Roentgen’s discovery and subsequent public demonstration of the first X-ray images to the Wurzburg Physical Medical Society. When Friedrich Otto Walkhoff took the first dental X-ray, it took 25-minutes of X-ray exposure to get a clear image of his patient’s molar.

Over the next five decades, dental X-ray technology evolved as it continued to be fine-tuned and adapted. In the 1950s with improved innovations in film speed, image quality, and patient comfort, along with the influence of the American Dental Association, adoption of X-ray technology was both accepted and seen as a necessary tool in the dental industry.

With continual studies and innovation, digital imaging made its first appearance in the dental industry in the 1980s, and by the early 1990s, was widely adopted by the dental industry. Digital dental imaging has continued to evolve with the availability of cone-beam computer tomography (CBCT) and 3D imaging since the early 2000s. Today, you would be hard pressed to find a dental office not using digital X-ray technology.

From the beginning of this digital evolution, the focus on improving imaging was never to replace dentists but to help them perfect their craft by providing a better image of their patient’s oral health. This evolution hasn’t just improved image quality but has extended to improving office efficiency and patient care.

The Next Step of the Dental Imaging Evolution

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology has been used for decades in the medical industry to review radiographs, mammograms, and cancer screenings. Recently, we have begun to see AI technology introduced to the dental industry as the most recent evolution in dental imaging. AI technology is beginning to act as a second set of eyes for dentists to help with diagnosis and confirm caries and periodontic diseases.

Its creators have continued to reiterate that AI technology is not here to replace dentists with technology, but to help dentists improve patient care and the overall health of our population.

How Does AI Technology Work?

X-ray AI analysis uses what is called Machine Learning to review, detect, and provide its opinion. But how does machine learning work?

At its most basic level, machine learning is the practice of using algorithms to parse data, learn from it, and then make a determination or prediction about something in the world. Rather than hand-coding software routines with a specific set of instructions to accomplish a particular task, the machine is “trained” using large amounts of data (think millions of data points) and algorithms to give it the ability to learn how to perform the task.

AI technology uses the data it has gathered from analyzing millions of X-ray images. It compiles the data to determine what abnormalities exist compared to normal images previously analyzed. The best part of this learning is that with every evaluation of an image, the machine continues to learn and improve, helping its ability to provide better results and reduce errors.

You could say this is a similar process dentists use to improve their detection capabilities. They learn, gather data, and predict what they are seeing. So, if AI is a similar process to what dentists are currently using, why should your office adopt AI technology?

The Benefits of AI Technology in Dental

1. More Confident Dental Team

Using the million data points of its analysis, AI technology goes beyond one practitioner’s education and experience to provide objective observations supported by data. Each practitioner can get immediate access to data without pausing to wait for a second opinion or second-guessing their decisions. With the benefit of an objective diagnostic resource backing their decision-making process, dentists can be confident they’ve made the most informed decision and accurate diagnosis possible.

AI technology can help new dentists by flagging harder-to-see caries they may have missed otherwise. They can diagnose confidently, resulting in fewer errors, thanks to an immediately available second opinion. What’s more, it keeps them from having to rely solely on more experienced team members to build their skills.

AI X-ray analysis doesn’t just give dentists confidence. With AI support, hygienists can identify caries with greater confidence, allowing them to start a conversation that helps patients prepare to talk with their dentist, consider any questions they might want to ask, and ultimately accept their treatment plan.

2. Time-Saving Efficiencies

AI detection support provides dentists with an immediate, research-based second opinion, so there’s no need to spend valuable time waiting for a second dentist to be available to weigh in on concerns. In fact, in some studies, AI technology and its second opinion has helped dentists reduce the number of missed caries by 43 percent and the number of false negatives by 15 percent.

3. Better Patient Outcomes

Preventative care is key to positive patient outcomes. One outstanding benefit of AI detection assistance is its capacity to improve patient care, which impacts every aspect of a dental practice’s business. AI detection assistance is designed to improve diagnostic accuracy, which gives patients earlier diagnoses and intervention, less invasive care, and less expensive care as a result.

4. Higher Profitability

A better patient experience isn’t just key to patient retention — it also has a profound impact on a dental office’s reputation and the ability to attract new patients. With better outcomes and more affordable care, patients are more likely to review the dental practice positively online or recommend it to a friend looking for a new dentist. AI detection assistance makes a higher standard of clinical performance possible, which brings money back into the dental practice.

The Evolution of Dentrix Imaging

In November 2022, Henry Schein One announced its partnership with VideaHealth, one of the leading AI detection assistance technology providers, to develop Dentrix Detect AI, powered and manufactured by VideaHealth. This new product brings the power of AI to your practice, providing automated X-ray scans and AI-enabled caries detection. Dentrix Detect AI is fully integrated into the current Dentrix imaging workflow your dental office is currently using, helping you confirm caries faster, have more meaningful discussions with patients, and improve patient care without the added hassle of having to transfer AI findings to and from separate systems.

Additional Information

Learn more about Dentrix Detect AI or schedule a free demo and see for yourself how this AI detection assistance can help your office improve patient care.